André Schöne’s installation at La Petite Maison in collaboration with Svaram represents an artistic principle that is neither old nor new, established nor ground-breaking. It is an expression of something that has been expressed many times before, yet is always in some way unrecognizable. “I’m not so interested in creating something new,” the musician/producer mused. “Whatever comes out in the process of creation is a response… Which makes it [new by default].”

            The length of tape that Schöne’s work is recorded on winds around the room, lending a physical aspect to the music (the piece itself is in fact a loop) that might be otherwise lost on some. Yet the music on its own is highly physical, situating the listener firmly in space (if not time), with individual sound combinations that are distorted and lent more immediacy by the flutter of magnetic tape. It is a sort of folk avant-garde, with a spirit and sound that evokes Stockhausen in the 1960’s- the alien ethnic collages of Telemusik or Hymnen- yet projected in a much more immediate and down-to-Earth way, the individual loops taking their time to fulfil their contribution to the whole. There are no jump cuts, sudden breaks, etc., which naturally makes for difficult analysis and a unique listening experience. The closest comparison that sprung to mind while it played was that of the quieter, rubato sections of Miles Davis’ final two concerts in Osaka before his first retirement in 1975, captured on the live albums Agharta and Pangaea. Ethnic percussion and synthesizers dominated the mix there, creating a calm, world-futurist feel that is here sustained across 23 minutes in a wash of pure sound.

            If indeed the process of creation is a response which ensures its newness, then the process of listening ought to be one as well- a necessarily repetitive cognition of that unrecognizable ‘something’. In its seeming organization into indefinite ‘moments’, as well as its use of a Tascam Portastudio as both a 4-track recording machine and an effect, André’s personal distillation of his surroundings takes on a distinctly folkish aspect. One can safely say there is little such music being made (crickets, frogs and birdsong excluded) in the midst of most any other jungle in the world, including ours. It is near impossible to analyze or dissect such a work as this in any satisfactory way; it is too layered and too far-reaching. The most that can be discussed at a time is a few individual moments. 

            At around the ten-minute mark, or just before, the extended decay of a gong begins to blend with a loop of low, creaking frequencies a major-sixth apart (the airport interval, I always call it; though here the effect is quite different). The loop is rhythmically morphing continuously which adds to its unsettling nature, aided and abetted by an odd electronic jingling in the background similar to that of sleigh bells. Over two-and-a-half minutes, the gong decay dissipates entirely, the loop gaining volume until it overwhelms the piece entirely. Emotionally, this is a space of intense claustrophobia, damp, dark, paranoid. A change then occurs that isn’t exactly texturally sudden, but mood-wise is akin to a weathervane swinging. The low creaks slowly fade into warmer, percussive tones; a few tape self-oscillations on top signal the last gusts of a flash flood. Out of nowhere, around 13:30, the sighing, sonorous murmur of what sounds like a flapamba ushers in a new day… The closest description of this moment I can give is perhaps the sound every fibre of a human body makes when exiting a storm cellar unscathed after an F4 tornado and seeing a slight sliver of sunshine licking the horizon.

             André Schöne’s work in Auroville adds up to far more than your average residency; this is a true artist exposing himself with no external agenda. Who even knew such things were still possible? This is a residency that matter-of-factly presents something that I had begun to doubt myself; miracles do still happen… As Woody Allen likes to remind us, if not in life, then in art. 

By Dhani Muniz

Andre Schöne was an artist in residence at La Petite Maison, a collaborative platform that engages with artists to facilitate an in-depth experience of art projects in Auroville (lapetitemaison(at)auroville.org.in, @lapetitemaison.auroville).

Photo Credit: Marco Saroldi